NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and fellow Senate Republicans are pushing a bill delaying for one year new Internal Revenue Service rules GOP lawmakers say can "target" political speech by nonprofit groups.
In a news release, Alexander said the rules fail to "protect the First Amendment rights of the American people."
A lead sponsor of the bill, Alexander also said he's joining colleagues in signing a letter to the IRS's new commissioner, John Koskinen, asking him to reconsider the rules.
"The IRS violated the First Amendment rights of the American people when it created what amounted to an enemies list of conservatives, including Tennessee tea party groups, to keep people quiet," Alexander said. "Now, instead of showing how it will protect the First Amendment rights of the American people to speak up and speak out, the IRS is proposing new regulations that are so broad they could limit the free speech. The American people need their trust restored -- not more federal overreach."
A number of groups with political aims seeking tax-exempt status were stymied by the IRS in recent years. Among them was the Chattanooga Tea Party, which an inspector general's report and other documents say was subjected by the IRS to "unnecessary" questioning and "significant processing delays in its request for nonprofit status.
The federal agency's foot-dragging delayed the group's request to be tax exempt by more than three years and two election cycles. It was among dozens singled out by the IRS because of their titles.
The GOP's Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act would delay for one year IRS rulemaking to define "candidate-related political activity" of tax-exempt "social welfare organizations."
It also requires the IRS to follow standards and regulations that were in effect prior to the agency's targeting of conservative groups during the 2012 election.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...